Never knowingly undersold

John Lewis have this long standing tag line "never knowingly undersold" - yet they have on their price commitment that they exclude on-line retailers (and shops not in a high street, or not with a good range of products, or in administration, etc, etc).

That seems to be that they are knowingly undersold, they know this, and they even know where they are undersold (i.e. on-line retailers, etc).

How does anyone get away with blatantly incorrect headline statements in their adverts like this?

It is like "nobody sells at a lower price that us*" (*except those that do). It makes no sense...

I really think that headline statements should not have footnotes that directly contradict the main statement. There is a lot of sensible use of foot notes and small print to clarify and refine statements, but where they directly contradict the main headline statement they should not be allowed, in my opinion.

It is phrases like "never" that at the issue really. Say "never" and you cannot really have small print saying "well, not quite never". Same as "unlimited" and then small print that says there is a limit.

The closest to sensible use of this I saw once was "virtually fat free" something (milk I think, not sure). They were saying that it was very nearly completely fat free but not quite. That is much more honest.

The other thing is that you can make a claim on their price promise, with loads of caveats, but they don't seem to say they will change their ongoing price as a result. That surely has to be the case though as they would, at that point, know they are being undersold. Maybe I should test this and see if they do change their prices in the shop just as a result of being told they are being "undersold".

I am sure when they started the promotion "never knowingly undersold" it meant something. These days it just means (*apart from where we know we are undersold).


  1. It's like 'We won't be beaten on price'. Yes you will.. frequently.

    Marketing has the honour of being even less honest than politics.

  2. >>>Maybe I should test this and see if they do change their prices in the shop just as a result of being told they are being "undersold".

    They certainly have done so in the past - more than once I've gone to buy something in JL and when scanned at the till a different (lower) price has come up. They will also refund that difference if you subsequently find it cheaper locally too (within a week I think it is, geographical limits apply too).

  3. Oh Bollocks! I just typed a comprehensive reply, and Google, having got me to sign in, said a Cookie wasn't valid for form restoration and promptly lost all my deathless prose! :=#

    So to sum up: John Lewis do honour lower prices and re-price their shelves as a result, but only on a level playing field (ie. vs other high street shops). Online retailers weren't around when they started "Never Knowingly Undersold" and they'd go out of business if they tried to price-match firms with dramatically lower costs.

    Cheers, Howard

  4. Unfortunately, ISTR that the ASA refused to uphold a complaint regarding use of "unlimited" in ISP's advertising and said that it was fine to describe limited accounts as unlimited...


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